22 December, 2009

Tourists at the weekend

Our first few weeks here seemed to be full of dull activities like going to IKEA, visiting social security offices and so on. In fact I'm not sure I'd done anything even vaguely touristy until about week 3 or 4. But we're trying to make up for it now. This weekend the girls wanted to go to Lombard Street of the zig-zag road and fabulous view. So we took the no. 49 through the Mission and beyond to the western end and climbed up and up until we got to the top, where wiggly bit starts down the other side. To get an idea of quite how steep some of the hills that have roads on are in this city, take a look at this and check out the angle of the cars and of the house behind. You can tell this is a steep one because the cars are parked sideways to avoid runaways.

This is Lombard Street just over the top from the famous part which is actually a tiny section.

And this is the street itself - less floral than usual as it is winter. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live here - it was quite busy with people marching up and down to take pictures and apparently in the summer there's a queue of cars waiting to navigate their way round the curves.

After that we walked on down the hill to Columbus Avenue and the North Beach neighbourhood which is Italian. Lots of restaurants - we had lunch at one: L'Osteria del Forno which was small and lovely. Then we carried on down Columbus to the City Lights bookshop of Ferlinghetti fame - an excellent shop with superb sections of civil rights, leftwing politics, criticism etc. but possibly a bit earnest for this family! After that we walked into Chinatown. Neighbourhoods in San Francisco change almost immediately. You can be on a block full of Italian restaurants only to turn a corner and find yourself surrounded by Chinese food, lanterns and medicine.

Chinatown itself is a bit too touristy for my tastes though there are clearly lots of local Chinese and businesses aimed at them rather than the passing Westerner. However there seem to be more gift shops than anything else of the rather cheesy kind selling lanterns and slippers and cards with hand painted characters claiming to spell out names like Brandi and Chad. I think I prefer the Richmond and Sunset neighbourhoods which are less on the tourist track, less ornate but with shops catering to the community, like the lovely Kamei and the food stores I saw around there.

I then headed off to find a small corner of the UK devoted to Heinz, Cadbury, Tate and Lyle and the Christmas pudding. This involved a hike up California Street and down the other side. The topography of this city is mad. What on earth possessed people to build up these hills and then put roads in straight lines up them, I do not know. Makes short walks suddenly seem very long indeed. Of course the street maps give no clue as to what you're letting yourself in for, so you just have to go for it, and puff your way up feeling virtuous. Once I'd picked up the pudding and some more tea I headed homeward managing to meet Tom and the girls on the Muni.

I've made a discovery - what I thought were two separate things - a tram and an underground train, turn out to be the same thing. Also I now have a translink card. Funny isn't it how something which was frustrating me so much, once solved seems trivial. The Translink card is excellent - works on everything except the cable cars (which are those cute old-fashioned looking things that Judy Garland sang about), and I no longer have to faff about with change. Also apparently you can load it with monthly passes, tickets for the Caltrain, the Bart and e-cash. I'm not sure if you can do all of these at once - I'm also assuming that you have to do some of this because integrating public transport isn't something they are very keen on here, and the Bart, Caltrain and Muni all work different ticketing systems. If I lived here, I'd get a translink card. (And I do, so I did.) The Muni et al really ought to make more of a fuss about it.

Now we're into Christmas preparations. First mince pies of the year were made today and will be going into the office tomorrow. Then I have cantucci and cinnamon buns to do before Christmas Day. The girls are very picky about breakfast on Christmas Day. Still at least lunch is just the four of us which is about all the catering I can cope with right now. First time since the girls were born that we have been just our family.

1 comment:

just Gai said...

I was interested in your recipe for cantucci. I've just made a batch of cranberry and pistachio biscotti, which sound very similar. I found the recipe on English Mum's blog - http://englishmum.com/2008/12/05/the-friday-photo-cranberry-and-pistachio-biscotti/, They're delicious and will make excellent gifts.

There are only the four of us too this Christmas. It's also the first time since our girls were born - and they're 15 and 17! I'm looking forward to having to please no one but ourselves for the day.

Merry Christmas!